Comic Review - Solomon Kane: Death’s Black Riders #1


Solomon Kane: Death’s Black Riders is a Dark Horse Comics miniseries, written by Scott Allie, with artwork by Mario Guevara, colours by Juan Ferreyra, and featuring covers by Darick Robertson.

The Story

For those unfamiliar with Solomon Kane (as this reviewer was): Solomon Kane is a fictional character created by the pulp-era writer Robert E. Howard. A 16th century Puritan, Solomon Kane is a somber-looking man who wanders the world with no apparent goal other than to vanquish evil in all its forms. His adventures, published mostly in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, often take him from Europe to the jungles of Africa and back.

This miniseries takes place after the events in Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil, but is written to be enjoyed as a standalone tale. The series uses Robert E. Howard’s “Death’s Black Riders” fragment and the “Rattle of Bones” short story as springboards to launch into a suspenseful and terrifying new excursion with Howard’s troubled Puritan hero.

This story is set in the Black Forest region of Germany. A caravan of gypsies is travelling through the Forest, when they are stopped by two strangers. The strangers quiz the gypsies, asking where they are going, and what they are carrying, intent on starting a ruckus . However, the bandits aren’t the worst things out in the woods tonight, and both the gypsies and highway men are shocked when two horrific creatures emerge from the woods, attacking everything in sight, and setting fire to the gypsies’ caravan.

It’s into this scene of chaos that Solomon Kane wanders, and he’s not sure what’s worse — the bandits who wish to rob and rape innocent travelers or the evils that spew forth from the forest, intent on killing every man and woman around! Soon, the party is scattered into the surrounding woods, and Kane, and what remains of the bandits and gypsies, find themselves fighting for their very lives, as creatures from their darkest nightmares hunt them down. Is Solomon Kane prepared for this threat, or will he meet his end at the hands of death’s black riders?

The Rating

Well, this is probably some sort of hanging offense amongst fans of fantasy and pulp, but I should admit that I’ve never actually read a Solomon Kane story before. Not the Dark Horse series, the Marvel series, or even Robert E. Howard’s original tales! As such, this is my first exposure to the character, and I to say that I found this story very new reader friendly. While the tale is supposed to take place after the previous Dark Horse miniseries, events in that series were not referenced at all, and the character of Solomon Kane doesn’t really need any introduction, he’s one of those larger than life characters that just is, like the mysterious stranger who comes out of the shadows, saves the day, and then disappears without a word. So for any readers out there hesitant to read this, due to not having read the preceding miniseries, believe me when I tell you that Dark Horse has made this a great jumping on point for the series, and you won’t be lost at all.

Scott Allie does a fantastic job of creating a fully fleshed-out tale from Robert E. Howard’s “Death’s Black Riders” story fragment, and uses it to bring Solomon Kane together  with Gaston l’Armon, who features in the short story “Rattle of Bones”, the plot of which was also used as inspiration for this miniseries - a story that finds Kane and l’Armon trapped in an inn with the ominous name of The Cleft Skull. Apart from the interactions between the bandits and the gypsies, the issue is rather sparse in dialogue, concentrating more on the survivors fleeing from the monsters, and fight scenes between Kane and the creatures. The fight scenes are well choreographed, and have just the right amount of gore, as Kane hacks the creatures up with his sword, and blows their brains out with his pistols. The scenes of the humans fleeing though the woods are incredibly tense and suspenseful, and Allie gives us wonderful descriptions of the scenes, like, “Gloom fills the spaces from one tree to the next, solid as mortar between brick”. It’s wonderful writing, and really pulls the reader into the scene, so you almost feel the terror that the character is feeling, knowing that each shadow could contain your doom!

I don’t think I’ve actually read anything by Scott Allie before, though I’ve obviously read countless things edited by him. It’s always good to see that the people editing your favourite comics can also write, and it seems that as well as being one of the best editors in the business, Scott Allie is also an incredibly talented writer!

The black rider creatures are designed by Guy Davis, and any fan of Davis’ work will recognize his hand in them instantly. The creatures are incredibly gruesome and twisted, and who else but the deranged mind who gave us The Marquis could dream up something as bizarre as this!

Mario Guevara provides the lineart for the issue, and his style actually seems to have some of Guy Davis’ sylistic flare about it. That’s not to say it’s derogatory, far from it in fact. Guerva’s linework has a very interesting, almost sketchy look about it, with lots of lines added in to give detail. He does a great job bringing Solomon Kane to life, and makes him look very mysterious, with his sepulchral white face, and dressed head to toe in jet black. The scenes set in the forest are incredibly creepy, and Guevara’ s inking creates dark pools of shadow, hinting that darkness lies in waiting all around. Juan Ferreyra also colours these scenes in a dark shade of purple, which makes the woods look even more ominous. It’s really great work, and helps bring this dark tale to life.

Solomon Kane: Death’s Black Riders #1 is a great story that is sure to please fans both old and new. Scott Allie does a wonderful job of creating an interesting and creepy tale out of a small scrap of Howard’s original prose, and seamlessly ties it together with another Howard short story, making for something far greater than the sum of its parts. This was actually my first exposure to a Solomon Kane story, and I’m already hooked! This one is definitely worth picking up, even if you’re just a casual reader.


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